After Sudan, the last male Northern White Rhino, passed away in March, two females of the subspecies remained—Najin, 17, and Fatu, 27.
Scientists were able to collect Sudan’s sperm while he was alive, but the two females who remain are too old to sustain a pregnancy. There were numerous attempts to impregnate the two previously, however scientists have resorted to harvesting their eggs for artificial insemination.
With the collected genetic material from both male and female Northern White Rhinos, scientists from the San Diego Institute of Conservation Research in the US have announced a breakthrough just two months after Sudan’s death.
A Southern White Rhino named Victoria was impregnated through artificial insemination and is currently being observed and cared for at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research.
“The pregnancy, created through artificial insemination with sperm from a male southern white rhino, is an important milestone in the ongoing work to develop the scientific knowledge required to genetically recover the northern white rhino, a distant subspecies of the southern white rhino,” said Randy Rieches, Director of Curatorial and Husbandry Sciences for San Diego Zoo Global.
Victoria is expected to give birth in the summer of 2019 as the gestation period of rhinos is 18-19 months.
With this new breakthrough, scientists can extend this procedure to other critically endangered rhino species such as the Sumatran and Java Rhinos.
Should the pregnancy survive, the ultimate goal is to create a herd of 15 northern white rhinos and eventually return them to their natural habitat in Africa.